God Inside-out: Siva's Game of Dice

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This book offers a new exploration of the mythology of the Hindu god Siva, who spends his time playing dice with his wife, to whom he habitually loses. The result of the game is our world, which turns the god inside-out and changes his internal composition. Hindus maintain that Siva is perpetually absorbed in this game, which is recreated in innumerable stories, poems, paintings, and sculptural carvings. This notion of the god at play, argue Handelman and Shulman, is one of the most central and expressive veins in the metaphysics elaborated through the centuries, in many idioms and modes, around the god. The book comprises three interlocking essays; the first presents the dice-game proper, in the light of the texts and visual depictions the authors have collected. The second and third chapters take up two mythic sequels to the game. Based on their analysis of these sequels, the authors argue that notions of asceticism so frequently associated with Siva, with Yoga, and with Hindu religion are, in fact, foreign to Hinduism's inherent logic as reflected in Siva's game of dice. They suggest an alternative reading of this set of practices and ideas, providing startling new insights into Hindu mythology and the major poetic texts from the classical Sanskrit tradition.